Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Travel&Dining > TravelBuzz
Reload this Page >

White Knuckle Experiences in Flight

White Knuckle Experiences in Flight

Old Mar 19, 11, 11:50 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Big Sky Country
Programs: CO PLT, DL GM, Hertz President Circle, SPG Platinum
Posts: 450
White Knuckle Experiences in Flight

I am curious about the shared "white knuckle" experiences of the community.

I would greatly appreciate if we keep the opinion, commentary and flack out of the discussion, just simply the post(s) of the your most challenging, frightening and share worthy events you have experienced in aviation.

Being a lifelong aviator, I have a few and will share periodically if the post needs a bump . . .

Thanks and hopefully we will enjoy our collective experiences:
idriveuride is offline  
Old Mar 19, 11, 12:14 pm
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Big Sky Country
Programs: CO PLT, DL GM, Hertz President Circle, SPG Platinum
Posts: 450
Enroute to EWR onboard PE (circa 1985/86), the weather conditions on the entire east coast deteriorated substantially while enroute this evening, which closed not only EWR; but, all four alternate airports.

Hours of constant turns and circling. From my experience, I knew something was going on; but, could only hypothesize from the cheap seats (gear, flaps, etc) as to why we had not yet arrived in EWR or heard from the crew.

Landing was abrupt and sudden. Many in the cabin screamed and braced. Although I heard the precursors to landing, it even caught me by surprise. The conditions were absolutely horrible. We could not see the bottom of the stairs, tail or wing tips let alone the terminal. I have never seen fog that thick.

I was a JS, the last person to get off the a/c and my colleagues up front exited with me. They were sheet white and drenched with sweat. All they could say, as we walked down the air stairs, "it was a miracle", the FE could not understand how we made ORF, we should have run out of fuel 15 minutes earlier.

I could only imagine the scene up front. Having absolutely no choice but to land completely blind with no fuel. Mind, this is 1985/86, the precision landing systems were a thing of the future.

Years later, I was in EGE reviewing a fuel ticket and noticed a "bump" in the loaded lbs. They fueler made a casual comment that when the request is an odd number, he just rounds up . . . . Perhaps a fueler years before had the same philosophy and the extra few lbs of fuel saved MANY lives.
idriveuride is offline  
Old Mar 20, 11, 2:34 pm
  #3  
Hilton Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: In the air
Programs: BA Gold, Marriott Amb, Hilton Diamond, AMEX Plat
Posts: 6,564
The Heathrow to Amsterdam shuttle frequently had some of the wobbliest landings I've ever done, as done any prop (e.g. Fokker 50) trying to land at London City Airport in over 20 m/h winds - there's a pretty extreme descent at the best of times.

I think my most notable recent white knuckle experience was with LAM (Air Mozambique) in a new Embrauer. We'd just started our descent when we suddenly hit what I assume was clear air turbulence. The aeroplane was pointing straight, but we dropped for what was probably only 5-10 seconds, but felt like an eternity. I was chatting to a fellow Flyertalker and our conversation gradually slowed, then stopped, then we both started looking concerned, then we braced ourselves against our seats. I don't know how far we dropped, but it must have been a few thousand feet, and I suspect quite a bit more.

Never felt anything like it before, or thankfully since.
EuropeanPete is online now  
Old Mar 20, 11, 3:42 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: SFO/SJC/SQL
Posts: 1,412
Was flying in a very tired Yak-42 when there was a large boom from the tail area. Cabin then started filling with smoke. One of the engines failed in spectacular fashion but everything was contained. The next day, however, we woke up to smoke coming from the direction of the airport and a CNN International report about a plane going down. Turned out the same plane had an engine failure on take off and crashed. No survivors.

Learned to fly at a very busy airport. When doing touch and go's one day, the pattern was full of all sorts of aircraft. Around my 5th, tower requested I do a 360 turn for spacing. Acknowledged the request and left the pattern. During this time, my flight instructor and I kept a mental note of all the aircraft around us and tower did his best to call out traffic. We did not have TIS or any other collision avoidance system besides the Mk1 Eyeball. As I was reentering the downwind, I did the standard traffic check which so many pilots forget because it becomes so routine.

Instead of clear sky, I saw a Piper Comanche. Instinctively, I firewalled the throttle and pulled a hard turn. To this day I still remember making eye contact with one of the Piper's passengers and seeing the look for fear on his face. Turns out the Piper requested a departure following the runway's heading. Without radioing the tower, he decided to do a touch and go. Tower was too busy with all the IFR traffic to notice the Piper deviate from his expected course and reenter the traffic pattern. After landing and taxiing back to the ramp. I sat there shaking. My CFI who was a F4 Phantom driver who saw combat over Vietnam told me after an experience like that, just sit a while. Eventually I pulled myself together and headed into the terminal.
WChou is offline  
Old Mar 20, 11, 7:34 pm
  #5  
Suspended
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 3,098
When I was a kid, perhaps 7 or 8 years old, my family and I were on a Pan Am flight that over-ran the runway. Not really a white knuckle experience because we didn't know it was going to happen until it did. I barely remember anyhow. But we had to evacuate down the slides because the plane sunk into the grass and they couldn't get it out or get air-stairs to it. I remember my mother being completely upset though.

2 years ago I was on a CRJ with non-functioning flaps coming into COS in bad weather. It was nerve wracking for me because I guessed that the flaps were only the symptom of a larger problem with hydraulics.

I was on an MD-80 going into DFW at night in a thunderstorm..that was pretty wild. The rain was so thick I was worried the engines were going to ingest more than they could handle, and when we did make it and taxiied in, I noticed that there was hail too..

Landing at SAN a few weeks ago I could tell we were on the visual to runway 9, and I thought we were going a bit long (SAN is my home airport so I know how it feels). We were coming in "high and hot" and the aircraft ballooned, came back down (I had already thought I would have TOGA'd, I hold a PPL myself) and I could have sworn we were going to over-run, the braking was so hard I thought my eyeballs were going to fly out of their sockets and the brakes would catch fire. When we stopped and turned, we were at the opposite threshold. Used it allll up.

Many aborted landings, but only one freaked me out. Iberia, Malaga around 1982, 727. We must have aborted at 200 ft. Up so steep I thougt we would stall. Came back around and landed, and as the pax exited the Iberia pilots would say goodbye..this pilot was sweating profusely.

The scariest I think I have related on this board before. A Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Pisa in 98. While we are sitting around the gate the pilot shows up and is in a complete rage. I did not speak German at the time, but he was screaming and throwing his arms around and the Gate crew were terrified of him. We board, push back, and this guy is obviously "driving angry". We were taxiing way over the limit and on turns would be leaning left and right and hanging on for dear life. The plane, an A319, took of like a freaking rocket..no toga button, he throttled it all the way up and took off at what must have been 2500 vsl. And on approach to Pisa, this guy just pointed the nose down and aimed it at the runway, spoilers out all the way to the ground, HARD braking. I thought we had a psychotic pilot. Taxi in was like the taxi out, being thrown around everywhere. And then the pilot pushed past us in the jetway and was screaming bloody murder at the gate crew at Pisa. He must have been near his max hours!! It did not look good for Lufthansa.
pinworm is offline  
Old Mar 20, 11, 10:15 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: TPE, LAX
Programs: LH Senator, IHG Plat, Hilton Gold
Posts: 592
Crazy Russian lady behind me

A few weeks back, going from MUC - ORD on LH 341, I think I had my first white knuckle experience...maybe?

During the boarding process, the Russian lady behind me was talking on her cell, LOUDLY and obnoxiously. Well, I thought, when the door is closed, this will be over, I am just gonna ignore it. And low and behold, she was getting agitated with her phone call, and started violently shaking my seat (cattle class). So I turned around and asked her nicely to stop pulling my seat.

"You should stop pulling your seat," that's what she said. Ziiing!

Irritated as I was, I took out my iPad and started reading when we are reaching the cruising altitude. You'd think things be quite and pieceful from now on right?

WROOONG!

I decided to skip the meal service, and went straight to sleep. So even before they started serving the meal, I reclined my seat about 3/4 way to start sleeping, and guess what she did?

She slammed on my seat, pushed it way back, and screamed at me!
"This is not business class, you can't sleep like that, that is MY space."

Luckily, a flight attendant saw that and told her off nicely, and just to irritate her further, this time I reclined fully (which, wasn't much in cattle class anyways.)

Just when I was about to really sleep, I heard puppies barking! So I thought, she might have paid for that and let the pet board. But then I felt something furry touching my arm... Being allergic to cats and dogs, I called for the FA, and thank goodness, per the rule, pets are not allowed outside the cage.

But I guess it was too late, my nose started getting runny for the rest of the flight, and those Zyrtec didn't really work either. Graduated medical school myself, I know fully what might happen if I am exposed in the allergen for a prolonged amount of time. Where's my epipen when I needed it? I politely asked the FA is there anything s/he can do.

By that time, the Russian lady had already caught attention of the crew member of her boorish behavior and letting the dog out, and that someone kept exercising his right in reclining his seat in front of him, has resentfully relegated herself back to the tail section and stood there as time "flew" by. (no pun intended)

Anyways, the male FA, apparently had enough of the debacle, just came by, and made sure the dog was in the cage and sneered at me and walked away, without even leaving me an extra roll of toilet paper for my nose.

After my short sleep, I decided to get up and about and a cute LH FA came up and we started chatting up, maybe because she was curious about the whole debacle. It started out as a nice convo, but before you know, I was irritated, again. Why you say?

"If you told me about your situation and your allergy, I'd gladly move you to first class, our business class is full this time around."
"Oh thanks! Why didn't you tell me that 6 hours earlier?" I said to myself, knowing that we are 1.5 hours away from ORD.
But all in all, she did give me some valuable advices when dealing with this in the future, so i got nothing against her.

Plus, she flies to ORD on avg. 5 times a month, and agreed to meet me up for lunch next time around.. anyways, TMI.

So there I was, after the flight, felt punk'd, I decided to write up a letter to LH and explained the whole debacle, knowing that I probably wont get anything back, I was glad at least I vented.

2 weeks later, LH wrote me back and offered me a system-wide eco-class 10% certificate for all future flights. I guess that's a happy ending.

Fair? Your thoughts are welcome.
flyhen is offline  
Old Mar 21, 11, 1:31 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Bangkok
Posts: 20
White knuckles in Africa

I was flying with my wife on a South African Airways flight from Lusaka to Johannesburg on a 737. There was a storm in Johannesburg, and the descent was very rough. At about 2,000 feet (I'm estimating), we hit wind shear that caused the plane to violently drop, causing everyone in the plane to scream in panic. Two seconds later, the pilot aborted the landing with an incredibly steep climb. We then diverted for landing in Durban.

My wife (who doesn't fly as much as me) was really freaked out by the whole thing and made good use of TWO airsick bags, but I told her I was incredibly happy the pilot made the decision to abort. Great call on his part.

Dragen Owner
dragen owner is offline  
Old Mar 21, 11, 10:46 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: SLC
Programs: DL DM
Posts: 191
Yesterday 3/20/11 LAS-LGB.

Pilot warned us of "bumpy" flight before takeoff due to high winds in LAS and big storm in LGB.

Most of flight was normal/moderate chop.

1/2 hour outside LGB a violent shift to the right that threw the FA's to the floor. Followed shortly by a sharp and violent drop. Felt like the plane hit with a giant hammer.

Drinks flew throughout the cabin. FA's huddled on floor.

Rest of the flight was very rough and the airsick bags were used throughout the cabin. While waling off plane there were a few who didn't make it to the bags and the clean up crew had their work cut out for them.
JDErickson is offline  
Old Mar 21, 11, 5:46 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Downers Grove, IL
Programs: UA Mileage Plus, AA Advantage
Posts: 5,983
2008 ORD-LHR United 777
We were landing at LHR in a horrible wind (had to be at least 20-30MPH) we were being tossed around like a beach ball and the Pilots kept jockying the engines. It was a wild ride to say the least.
CubsFanJohn is offline  
Old Mar 21, 11, 5:52 pm
  #10  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Living the dream in Antigua
Programs: AA PLAT 2MM, *A Gold, WN detractor
Posts: 30,908
When they ran out of rum on my last SJU-LAX flight...
SJCFlyerLG is offline  
Old Mar 21, 11, 10:00 pm
  #11  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Freeload Univ. Where are you sitting?
Posts: 13,674
I remember a flight EWR-BUF on PE. We took off OK and kept flying. Then one of the pilots came sauntering out of the cockpit, whistling softly, and preceeded to lift up a hatch that was in the middle of the aisle (727). I never knew that hatch was there, though I must have walked over it many times.

Anyhow, he disappears into the lower bowels of the a/c while we all watched, a little dumbstruck. Then climbed back up, re-secured the hatch, and sauntered back to the cockpit.

Eventually, we got an announcement that we were heading back to EWR. Something about the wheels might be down or might not - at any rate, they didn't know for sure. So there we were, all in the crash position, and as we're approaching I notice the runway is lined with emergency equipment. How nice! Just for us, I assumed.

As it turned out, we landed safely and trundled another 727 out for us to continue the trip.

I got back on. A lot of folks didn't.
BigLar is offline  
Old Mar 22, 11, 11:45 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 16
Going into Hannover about 6 years ago ....in the back of a BA Connect 145. Thunderstorms brewing everywhere....all the dust from the floor up in the air...on the ceiling then back on the floor.
Speaking to the locals that night they called these storms as a super cells ...where lots of thunderclouds group together. Scared me to death!
rmcy is offline  
Old Mar 22, 11, 1:30 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Reston, Virginia, USA
Posts: 652
A normal landing at Saba, the world's shortest commercial runway.

The twin Otter Glides in, wingtip practically striking sparks from the cliff face. Reverse pitch, full throttle while still in the air. Stall warning sounds, wheels hit, end of runway coming up. And stop. Feet to spare.
scubadiver is offline  
Old Mar 22, 11, 4:19 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Programs: HHonors Diamond, SPG Gold, AAdvantage Platinum
Posts: 49
Originally Posted by flyhen View Post
A few weeks back, going from MUC - ORD on LH 341, I think I had my first white knuckle experience...maybe?

During the boarding process, the Russian lady behind me was talking on her cell, LOUDLY and obnoxiously. Well, I thought, when the door is closed, this will be over, I am just gonna ignore it. And low and behold, she was getting agitated with her phone call, and started violently shaking my seat (cattle class). So I turned around and asked her nicely to stop pulling my seat.

"You should stop pulling your seat," that's what she said. Ziiing!

Irritated as I was, I took out my iPad and started reading when we are reaching the cruising altitude. You'd think things be quite and pieceful from now on right?

WROOONG!

I decided to skip the meal service, and went straight to sleep. So even before they started serving the meal, I reclined my seat about 3/4 way to start sleeping, and guess what she did?

She slammed on my seat, pushed it way back, and screamed at me!
"This is not business class, you can't sleep like that, that is MY space."

Luckily, a flight attendant saw that and told her off nicely, and just to irritate her further, this time I reclined fully (which, wasn't much in cattle class anyways.)

Just when I was about to really sleep, I heard puppies barking! So I thought, she might have paid for that and let the pet board. But then I felt something furry touching my arm... Being allergic to cats and dogs, I called for the FA, and thank goodness, per the rule, pets are not allowed outside the cage.

But I guess it was too late, my nose started getting runny for the rest of the flight, and those Zyrtec didn't really work either. Graduated medical school myself, I know fully what might happen if I am exposed in the allergen for a prolonged amount of time. Where's my epipen when I needed it? I politely asked the FA is there anything s/he can do.

By that time, the Russian lady had already caught attention of the crew member of her boorish behavior and letting the dog out, and that someone kept exercising his right in reclining his seat in front of him, has resentfully relegated herself back to the tail section and stood there as time "flew" by. (no pun intended)

Anyways, the male FA, apparently had enough of the debacle, just came by, and made sure the dog was in the cage and sneered at me and walked away, without even leaving me an extra roll of toilet paper for my nose.

After my short sleep, I decided to get up and about and a cute LH FA came up and we started chatting up, maybe because she was curious about the whole debacle. It started out as a nice convo, but before you know, I was irritated, again. Why you say?

"If you told me about your situation and your allergy, I'd gladly move you to first class, our business class is full this time around."
"Oh thanks! Why didn't you tell me that 6 hours earlier?" I said to myself, knowing that we are 1.5 hours away from ORD.
But all in all, she did give me some valuable advices when dealing with this in the future, so i got nothing against her.

Plus, she flies to ORD on avg. 5 times a month, and agreed to meet me up for lunch next time around.. anyways, TMI.

So there I was, after the flight, felt punk'd, I decided to write up a letter to LH and explained the whole debacle, knowing that I probably wont get anything back, I was glad at least I vented.

2 weeks later, LH wrote me back and offered me a system-wide eco-class 10% certificate for all future flights. I guess that's a happy ending.

Fair? Your thoughts are welcome.
Sounds like an extremely annoying flight, but not quite sure the type of thing OP had in mind when asking about "white knuckle" experiences.
Jimage is offline  
Old Mar 22, 11, 9:18 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: SJC/SFO
Programs: UA 1MM/*A Gold, WN A+ CP, Mar LT Tit, IHG Plat, HH Gold
Posts: 5,418
My most white-knuckle travel experience was not on an airplane but on the shuttle bus traveling to the airport for my second flight ever. Pittsburg, 1989. Driver is some combination of nuts, blind, angry, and a comedian.

The fun starts as we pick up the last passenger. Driver gets on the PA. "(static) I've got good news and bad news. (static) The bad news is every major road to the airport is congested with rush hour traffic and most of you will miss your flights. (static) The good news is we're not going to use any major roads."

Driver yanks the steering wheel hard and floors the throttle. Bus goes lurching around a corner. He accelerates down a narrow street, weaving around parked delivery trucks. Not only are we exceeding the speed limit, but it is a one-way street and we are going the wrong way.

Driver turns hard onto an arterial street. Runs a red light at a major intersection. Honks at the pedestrians who are in the middle of the crosswalk, crossing with the light! Driver gets on the PA again. "(static) Where do they teach people to walk in this city?"

I note the looks of horror frozen onto the pedestrians' faces as we pass within inches of them. The same looks of horror are on the faces of all my fellow passengers. We are holding on for dear life and afraid to say anything to the driver.

Driver continues jackrabbit starts and stops across city streets. It's deathly quiet in the bus so he gets on the PA again, this time playing up tour guide trivia. "(static) There are over 800 bridges in Pittsburgh. (static) That's more than any other city in the world. (static) And they're all free."

I double-checked his facts years later while preparing a report on the trip. Pittsburgh, known as "The City of Bridges", is the world record holder, but it has only 446.

Back to the trip. Actually, I forget the rest of it. By that point my mental faculties were reduced to basic fight-or-flight responses. Next thing I know, the bus arrives at PIT in one piece. There are no injuries and no visible damage. A small miracle. Three of eight passengers clamber down the stairs and literally kiss the ground. Still shaking, we unload our luggage from the back, enter the airport, and embark on the statistically safest part of our journeys, flying in a commercial aircraft.
darthbimmer is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: